After 37 years at 11 E. Laurel Road in Stratford, we are moving - to 117 E. Laurel Road in Stratford, a half block away. Moving date is 3/3/22. We'll be setting things up through the weekend, and should return to normal on Monday, 3/7/22. Longtime clients will be glad to hear there will be no steps at our new place! My services won't change - looking forward to continuing to help you out with your family law needs.

Child Support and Healthcare Expenses in New Jersey

Must Child Support Include Payment of Medical Insurance Premiums for Minor Children?

Child Support and Healthcare Expenses in New JerseyWhen you are involved in a divorce in New Jersey and there are minor children, you can expect that the court will order the non-custodial parent to pay some amount of child support. That support is intended to cover the non-custodial parent’s share of fixed and variable expenses, from shelter to food, clothing, transportation, personal care and entertainment. Is it also allotted to cover some of the costs of medical care or medical insurance? Sort of…

Medical Expenses under the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines

The New Jersey child support guidelines do not require that a child support order contain any provision for payment of medical expenses or for payment of medical insurance premiums. The guidelines do, however, make it clear that the support award includes payment for the first $250 per year of unreimbursed medical expenses incurred on behalf of a minor child. Accordingly, it’s important to understand, if you are the recipient of a child support award, that you will be solely responsible for the first $250 per year of medical costs not covered by insurance. As the payor, you have no responsibility for that amount. Amounts beyond the $250 will be ordered paid as per each party’s percentage of total gross income.

The costs of health insurance coverage for minor children are not included in a basic child support obligation. However, if you are paying additional expenses for health insurance premiums for your children, those costs may be considered when calculating the amount of child support. To have it taken into account, though, you will typically need to show how much of your monthly health insurance bill is for your minor children.

Contact the Law Office of David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.

Behind on Your Child Support?

Can Your Ex Deny Visitation until You Pay All Arrearages?

Behind on Your Child Support?When your marriage ends in divorce in New Jersey, and there are minor children still at home, you can expect that the court will order the payment of child support by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent. That commitment is more than a moral obligation—you can face potential sanctions for failing to pay or stay current with your child support obligations.

If you’re like most non-custodial parents, you’ll work hard to honor that commitment. Unfortunately, for many of us, unforeseen circumstances, such as the loss of a job or a serious accident or medical emergency, can make it difficult or impossible to stay current with child support. Can you risk loss of access to your minor children if you fall behind with your child support? Can your ex refuse to grand access to your children unless you make payments or bring arrearages current?

The Relationship between Visitation and Child Support in New Jersey

In New Jersey, as in all states, the rights of a non-custodial parent to visitation are not contingent upon the payment of child support. Accordingly, a custodial parent may not deny visitation to a non-custodial parent because of any type of arrearage in payments.

If a non-custodial parent fails to make child support payments in a timely manner, the custodial parent can file a motion for contempt of court, which may lead to any of a number of sanctions, including:

  • A temporary or permanent modification of parenting time/custodial arrangements
  • The issuance of an income withholding order, whereby child support payments are taken directly from the payor’s wages
  • The issuance of a bench warrant, which will automatically suspend the payor’s driver’s license
  • A tax offset, whereby any tax refund due to the payer will be diverted to pay past child support
  • Notification to credit reporting agencies

If, on the other hand, a custodial parent wrongfully refuses visitation because of a child support arrearage, the non-custodial parent may also file a motion for contempt of court. The court can then issue a subsequent order compelling visitation, including compensatory visitation for any time denied.

Contact the Law Office of David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.

New Jersey Child Custody Disputes—An Introduction

The Basic Things You Need to Know

New Jersey Child Custody DisputesIf you are considering filing for or are in the middle of a divorce, and you have minor children in the marital home, one of your first concerns will be custody. How does the court determine custody? What are the different types of custody? What factors are involved in a custody ruling?

The Different Types of Custody in New Jersey

As you work to come to an agreement regarding custody and visitation, you’ll hear a number of different terms discussed:

  • Physical custody—This refers to where the children actually reside. Traditionally, minor children of divorce spent most of their time in the home of one parent and had visitation with the other parent. That usually meant every other weekend with the “non-custodial” parent, as well as alternating holidays, some time in the summer and perhaps a night a week. In recent years, though, the trend has been toward greater shared physical custody, with the children spending more equal time in the home of each parent.
  • Legal custody—This involves decisions about the child’s well-being, including educational, health, religious and extra-curricular activities.
  • Joint custody—The court may give both parents equal custody rights
  • Sole custody—The court may grant custody exclusively to one parent

What Factors Go Into a Custody Determination?

In New Jersey, as in most states, the primary factor governing the determination of custody rights is the “best interests of the child.” New Jersey courts typically look at four different issues:

  • The impact of a custody ruling on the child’s physical well-being and safety
  • How the custody determination will affect the child’s emotional health and well-being
  • The respective parenting skills, as well as the parties’ ability and willingness to engage in co-parenting
  • Any practical concerns

Contact the Law Office of David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.

Equal Shared Custody—Pros and Cons

The Advantages and Disadvantages of 50/50 Parenting

Equal Shared Custody—Pros and Cons Historically, in the aftermath of a divorce, when there were minor children in the home, one parent was granted primary physical custody and the other parent was accorded rights of visitation, typically bringing the child into his or her home every other weekend, alternating holidays and on other agreed-upon occasions. That approach, however, is changing, as more an more states are enacting laws that allow for “equal parenting,” where the minor children spend half of their time with each parent. New Jersey allows such an arrangement.

On it’s face, it may seem like the most equitable way to resolve custody issues. Typically, both parents want to play a meaningful role in the growth and development of their children. But equal parenting does not come without its challenges and its detractors. Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages.

The Benefits of Equal Shared Parenting

Studies indicate that when minor children spend approximately the same amount of time with each parent:

  • They have higher self-esteem, better school performance, and better emotional, behavioral and physical development
  • They have a broader perspective on the world, due to the differences inherent in each household
  • There are fewer gender-based assumptions about parenting for all parties involved
  • Parents tend to work more cooperatively, provided there is no fundamental conflict or animosity

Opponents of equal shared parenting fear that:

  • Sharing custody equally typically eliminates child support and may leave children without adequate financial resources
  • Children may struggle to have a sense of belonging anywhere, feeling instead that they are visitors in both homes
  • Where there is a fundamental level of discord, the frequency of contact between the parents can be problematic
  • Mandating that the child spend an equal amount of time with each parent does not accurately replicate what happens in most intact homes…it’s customary for a child to spend significantly more time with one parent than the other.

Contact the Law Office of David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.

Can I Deny Visitation for Unpaid Child Support in New Jersey?

What Are Your Rights When Child Support is Past-Due?

Can I Deny Visitation for Unpaid Child Support in New Jersey?When you’re a custodial parent to minor children, payment of child support by your ex can help ensure that you can keep a roof over your head and put food on the table. When your former spouse clearly has the resources to pay child support, but refuses to do so, you can feel considerable resentment when your children leave for visitation. Can you deny the other parent access to the children because of a failure to pay child support?

The Right to Visitation is Not Conditioned on Payment of Child Support

In New Jersey, as in all states, the right of a non-custodial parent to regular access to and visitation with minor children is not tied to the payment of child support. Though the non-payment of child support can create significant problems, denying visitation will typically only make things worse, as it will constitute a violation of a court order (your divorce decree) and could potentially place you in contempt of court.

Furthermore, absent a showing that the non-custodial parent poses a physical threat to the minor children, it’s unlikely that a court will issue an order denying visitation with minor children. That does not mean, though, that a custodial parent who is not receiving child support cannot petition the court to change the terms of visitation. However, the courts will be unlikely to issue an order that negatively affects the children.

A better approach, when child support is not being paid, is let the matter be handle by the Probation Division of the New Jersey Department of Human Services. How do you do that? Well, as a general rule, unless you agree to some other method of payment in your divorce decree, that will be the default method for payment. With that approach, all child support payments will be made to the Probation Division, either directly or through wage garnishment. The Probation Division will keep records of all support paid, and has the power and authority to engage in collection actions, when there are arrearages. The Probation Division has a number of tools at its disposal, including:

  • Wage garnishment
  • Attachment of tax refunds
  • Suspension of passport or driver’s license renewals
  • The issuance of an arrest warrant for contempt of court

Contact the Law Office of David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.

When Your Child Refuses Visitation

What Can You Do If Your Child Doesn’t Want to Spend Time with You?

When Your Child Refuses VisitationDivorce is difficult on everyone, but tends to affect children much more than adults. From toddlers to teenagers, kids are often acutely aware that their situation is different from most, if not all of their friends. Constantly going back and forth can be exhausting, and can leave children feeling like they don’t truly belong anywhere. Often, that can manifest in a child’s desire or decision not to spend time with a non-custodial parent. When your child tells you or your ex that he or she doesn’t want to have visitation, what can (and should) you do?

The Law in New Jersey

Technically, a child must be at least 18 years old in New Jersey to have the legal right to choose where he or she wants to live…and to choose not to see one of his or her parents. That doesn’t mean, though, that a younger child may not be granted that right by the court. However, for a minor to have the legal right to refuse visitation, the minor must go to court and get a signed order from the judge.

As a rule, the courts tend to be open to a request for refusal of visitation. First, though, the court will typically have a hearing to gather additional information. The judge will carefully gather evidence, seeking to ascertain whether the custodial parent has wrongfully influenced the child, or is offering some type of reward or benefit if the child refuses to see the non-custodial parent. The court may also examine whether there is any threat of harm or physical abuse to the child, either from the custodial or the non-custodial parent. In these types of hearings, the court may also take testimony from the child, and may give weight to that evidence.

Talking to the Child and to the Custodial Parent

Generally, though, using the courts to enforce a visitation order against your child is not recommended. The quality of your visitation will likely be minimized when it is compelled.

Your first course of action may be to talk with the custodial parent, to see if they have a better understanding of why the child is refusing visitation, or to see if they are complicit in the refusal. It can also be beneficial to speak directly to your child, to see if there has been some miscommunication, or to attempt to mend a damaged relationship.

Contact the Law Office of David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.

Wishing You And Yours A Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

We are sending holiday cheer to you in the hopes that you and your family have a very Merry Christmas and a healthy New Year.

As we look forward to 2022 we humbly pray that the new year brings a new sense of peace and joy as we enter the new year ready for a return to normalcy and prosperity.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Spousal Support in New Jersey

What Types of Alimony Are Available? How Does the Court Determine Spousal Support?

Spousal Support in New JerseyAlimony…it seems like an archaic term, something that’s gone by the wayside as women have become fully integrated into the workplace. Do the courts in New Jersey still grant alimony/spousal support awards? If so, how do the courts determine both eligibility for alimony and the appropriate amount/duration of payments? Are there different types of alimony a court can award?

Alimony—Still Alive and Well in New Jersey

Though the frequency with which alimony awards are granted has diminished, and though the types of awards given tend to be different, parties to a divorce still have a right in New Jersey to ask the court for spousal support. The court may, at its discretion, order either party to a divorce to pay alimony to the other party, based on a wide range of factors, including:

  • The length of the marriage—Though there is no minimum requirement, the longer parties have been married, the greater the chances of securing alimony
  • The health and age of both parties—For recipients, older age and poorer health weigh in favor of support. For payors, the opposite is true.
  • The potential earning capacities of the parties
  • The standard of living to which the parties were accustomed during the marriage
  • The actual needs of the recipient, in comparison with the ability of the other party to pay
  • Whether or not the parties played a significant role in parenting during the marriage
  • Whether or not the recipient owns any income-producing property
  • The outcome of the property settlement in the marriage

The Different Types of Spousal Support

Though the courts have the discretion to grant an alimony award with an open duration, it’s becoming more common for spousal support to have a limited duration. A recipient whose age or infirmity makes it difficult or impossible to become self-sufficient may receive alimony permanently, but most alimony awards are:

  • Temporary—Established for a set period of time…usually a period of years
  • Rehabilitative—Put in place until the recipient is able to be self-sufficient, through training, education or career advancement

The Termination of Alimony

Alimony can be terminated or reduced by various events, such as

  • The remarriage of the recipient
  • Cohabitation by the recipient with a partner in an intimate relationship
  • The retirement of the payor

Accordingly, it is critical to properly and tightly draft any alimony provision in the divorce decree.

Contact the Law Office of David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

On this Thanksgiving Day, we take time to express our daily gratitude for the simple pleasures of life—good friends, family, people we hold dear. As we gather together, help us be grateful and let us share our bounty with our brothers and sisters.

The Allocation of Retirement Assets in a New Jersey Divorce Settlement

Can Retirement Assets Be Divided between the Parties?

The Allocation of Retirement Assets in a New Jersey Divorce SettlementYour marriage is irretrievably broken and divorce is the best pathway forward. You’ve built up a substantial retirement plan, but it’s only in your name. Is it protected from distribution to your spouse in the property settlement? Are there any special conditions that must apply?

The Right to a Portion of Qualified Retirement Plan Assets

Under the equitable distribution principles in place in New Jersey, both parties to a marriage are entitled to receive a portion of any assets acquired during the marriage, regardless of how the property is titled. Accordingly, the fact that all retirement assets are held in the name of one spouse will not prevent those assets from being divided between the parties. One caveat—only those retirement assets that were contributed and accrued during the marriage will be subject to equitable distribution. Any retirement assets contributed or accrued before the marriage are generally exempt.

The distribution of retirement assets must be carefully handled or one or both parties may incur tax consequences. As a general rule, the way those potential problems are avoided is with the use of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”), a court order that directs the administrator of any retirement assets to transmit a portion of them to the other spouse. The QDRO must be signed by the judge to be legally binding.

A QDRO is not required, however. The parties may include language in the marital settlement agreement allowing the owner of the retirement funds to keep all of them, typically in exchange for conveying other marital property of similar or equal value to the other spouse.

Contact the Law Office of David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.